Business Press

The Tote Bag I Designed for West Elm

I worked for west elm, briefly, when they opened their first retail location nearly ten years ago. I remember being so excited that my favorite catalog was finally opening a brick-and-mortar location, and that it was going to be right over in Oak Brook! I had left my full-time job at the bookstore that summer, so I applied to earn a little extra money there during the holiday season while I continued my other part-time job and tried to make a go of my stationery business. Now, as they were moving from their original Oak Brook location on 22nd, into a new space in Oakbrook Center, I was working for them again. This time, drawing and designing a tote bag to be given away for the grand opening.

Free West Elm Tote Bag, Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it LovelyIMG_7539-Edit640

I sometimes think of the digital mood boards and room designs that I create in Photoshop as my version of window shopping. Way back though, before this blog, I used to sketch rooms, furniture, and clothes that I liked on paper. Doing this illustration project for west elm was a lot of fun, because it tapped into that old practice. I drew ten or so of my favorite products from west elm, and then another ten local landmarks, first in pencil and then outlined with a Micron pen. Then I scanned my drawings, cleaned them up in Photoshop and vectorized them in Illustrator, and then added color. I also played around with the layout, choosing my favorite illustrations and constraining them to the proper size.

Illustrations by Nicole Balch for West Elm

The people at west elm that I’d been speaking to as I worked on the project were not from the area. They had initially requested images that say “Oak Brook” so… the McDonald’s headquarters and Oakbrook Center? Right. If you’re wondering why the tote is more Illinois and Chicago-themed, there you go. We expanded the range.

West Elm Tote Bag Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely

I visited the new store, which just opened today, and it’s gorgeous. I’m so honored to have had this opportunity to work with them again, in such a fun way! Thanks, west elm.

West Elm's Oakbrook Center Living Grow Wall Behind the Cash Wrap

p.s. Cookies, with my illustrations!


Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

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  • Danielle
    September 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Soo cool! My only complaint – Chicagoland has had a West Elm for almost 10 years and here in Michigan we’re still waiting. womp, womp. Oh well, yet another reason to visit Chicago! ;)

  • Lucy
    September 26, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    That is so exciting! The tote bag looks awesome!

  • Christine
    September 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    How cool is that? I love your little sketches!! New stores are always so exciting, we are STILL (not so patiently) waiting for a West Elm in our city!

  • Catherine
    September 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    That’s very cool, Nicole! I love West Elm, and I was happy to receive their email today about the company directly supporting artisans in other countries.

    • Making it Lovely
      September 27, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Yes, it’s a very good thing they’re doing.

  • Cher
    September 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I got that tote last night at the sneak peek soft opening- I had no idea it was designed by you. Good job!

    • Making it Lovely
      September 27, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      My logo is on it, teeny-tiny-like!

  • Jessica @ Sunday Loves
    September 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    I love, love, love that bag. Great job. :)

  • Leah
    September 27, 2013 at 2:55 am

    West Elm is coming to London!!! Happiness is this! :D x

  • Heidi
    September 27, 2013 at 8:05 am

    Baltimore desperately needs a West Elm!

  • Nicole
    September 27, 2013 at 8:36 am

    The bag is gorgeous – congrats!!

  • emily @ go haus go
    September 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

    This is so great! We actually had a West Elm here in Cincinnati 4-5 years ago and it closed! So sad! It was the site of my best deal to date. One of their 8 x 11 zig zags for $80. It was a floor model. Sigh. I wish they would come back!

  • Mildred
    September 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Nicole! I was so excited when I got the West Elm email today and saw YOUR bag! How exciting! I really missed the West Elm while it was moving (I work across the street in those white office buildings). Even though I don’t know you other than via the blog, I felt proud of you, like you would with a good friend! Congratulations!

  • jbhat
    September 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Neato! What a great project for you.


  • Susan G.
    September 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I’ve been waiting, waiting, waiting for the Oak Brook move to be complete! I’ve missed shopping that store. I grew up in the town next door and never noticed that the center spells it Oakbrook. What?! Lameness.

  • kim @ DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS
    September 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    What a fantastic opportunity for you! The bag is great!
    I went to an opening of West Elm near me this year and the event also featured a local artist. They’re really taking their stores to a new level by including local craft. I like their new direction! Congratulations!

  • Birdy
    September 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Your illustration looks awesome on cookies… Yummy

    Love from Germany and the -fatcatconnection-
    have a wonderful weekend

  • suzanne
    September 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    We were in there today.. quite the new set up they have.. i let my kids have the cookies.. they looked liked props..but i knew from your site that they were the real deal!!!

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    […] The Tote Bag I Designed for west elm! […]

  • Maz
    October 3, 2013 at 5:39 am

    The tote design is fantastic. The cookies look great also!

  • Jennifer
    October 22, 2013 at 10:34 am

    How neat! There was a similar bag at the opening of the Birmingham, AL location earlier this month. Now I’m wondering if someone local did the illustrations …

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